If there is a world record for disposition of a telephone antitrust case, it was set last week by U.S. District Court Judge Barrington D. Parker: three days from start to finish.
The issue? Pay telephone calls at Lorton Reformatory.
Eleven prisoners, representing themselves, complained that since 1969 they have had to pay 25 cents for five minutes on the pay phone at the prison, while the free public could gab indefinitely for 10 cents (until 1975 when the price went up to 15 cents in the District, 20 cents in Virginia and later 15 cents in Maryland).
Invoking all kinds of antitrust lingo such as "undue restraint of trade" and "unlawful combinations and conspiracies," the inmates wanted Parker to order the corrections department to drop the phone call price to 15 cents and pay them $25,000 each in damages "for the amount of money paid into this illegal phone system."
A spokesman for the corrections department said last week that Lorton officials started charging inmates two bits per phone call (except for conversations with their lawyers, which are free) several years ago in lieu of raising prices at the inmate canteen.
But, before the corrections department could get its two cents in in this case, Parker dismissed the lawsuit on his own, saying in an order that covered less than a page that the case did not amount to an antitrust claim.
In the Freedom of Information Act department, there will be no free ride for Washington lawyer Richard Manning Ricks and, in another case, for University of Notre Dame law professor G. Robert Blakey, former chief counsel to the House Assassinations Committee.
Ricks went to court to try to get the State Department to turn over records of cables between former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Saudi ambassador James Akins involving OPEC price hikes.
In so doing, Ricks, who says he has substantial outstanding medical bills and has not earned more than $1,000 this year, asked the court to waive the $10 filing cost and let him file "in forma pauperis."
Asked why he didn't want to pay the $10, Ricks said "because I am broke. I have no income . . . . $10 is $10 to me."
Senior Judge George L. Hart Jr. was not persuaded, especially after he saw that Ricks had declared on a court form that he owned a 1978 Volvo worth $4,500.
"Denied," scrawled Hart across Rick's lawsuit in response to the waiver request. "Any plaintiff who owns a Volvo can pay costs." Ricks wrote the clerk's office a check for $10 on Friday.
As to Blakey, he wanted the court to waive the $5,196.70 it would cost him to copy 50,000 pages of FBI documents relating to Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby.
Blakey, making his pitch for a freebie, said that his access to the documents would benefit the public since he expects to make recommendations to the FBI and the Justice Department about further investigation into the assassination of President Kennedy. Blakey also said he plans to teach a law school course on the subject and write about it and, when he gets done, plans to donate the records to the Notre Dame library.
The FBI had earlier told Blakey that saving money was in the public's interest and he would have to fork over the cash if he wanted the papers. U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, noting that four news organizations, a university and a microfilm company had paid the copying fee, agreed.
In case you're wondering how Hogan & Hartson wound up representing Elizabeth Taylor in her lawsuit to stop the ABC television network production of her life story: Taylor's estranged husband, Sen. John Warner (R-Va.), was a partner at Hogan & Hartson from 1960 to 1968.
Also a newcomer to the firm in the early 1960s was Robert J. Elliott, who has represented Taylor for several years and is her lawyer in the ABC case.
It had to happen: The herpes crisis had made its way into court.
The National Law Journal reports in today's edition that a 24-year-old Florida woman has filed a $100,000 lawsuit against a man from whom she contends she contracted the disease after an evening's liaison. The woman contends that she questioned the man about his physical condition prior to their involvement and that he denied he had any communicable diseases. Two days later, the woman contends, she discovered differently.
Washington lawyers Evelyn E. Queen, John W. King and Joseph Sitnik have been named hearing commissioners at the D.C. Superior Court, where they will handle preliminary matters in the criminal court and traffic cases. The presence of the new commissioners, appointed by Chief Judge H. Carl Moultrie I, is expected to make it easier to move two sitting judges into the overloaded felony division.